Bokashi 101 on webradio

A couple of weeks ago I got to do something fun. Talk about Bokashi on webradio!

There’s a woman in Montana who does a web radio show on gardening. (What else could she possibly write about given that her name is Kate Gardner?!). She called and we talked. And talked…and talked. Probably got a bit carried away with it all actually but it was such fun. And in the end she knocked it up into a nice little session called Bokashi 101.

So if you’ve got an hour to spare load it up on your iPod and take the dog out for a walk.

It was really fun talking to Kate. But what I learnt is that it’s hard to keep your thoughts in a straight line when you’re being asked questions. Running a course is much easier! So there were a couple of really important things I would have liked to bring up if I’d only remembered.

And they are this:
1. That the topsoil on our planet is fast fading away. Some estimates are that we are losing 1%  per year. Yikes. So whatever we do in this generation of ours, we have to make sure we start building top soil again. Every bucket of Bokashi you dig down adds a bucket of topsoil to the planet. A bucket for mankind and not for the landfill…

2. That the single most important thing about Bokashi is that it puts carbon into the soil where we need it and not into the atmosphere, where we absolutely don’t. Each bucket you dig down is a sort of micro carbon sink. A bucket of carbon in the soil is a good thing. Half a bucket of carbon in the air is not a good thing. (What happens in a regular compost pile or even a landfill pile is that almost half the organic waste goes up into the air in the form of greenhouse gases. Much of it as methane which is a far worse gas than carbon dioxide.)

Today (on my dog walk!) I listened to the next installment of the Bokashi story on Kate’s web radio show. Here she’s talking to an inspiring couple in Great Falls, Montana, who are working hard to set up large-scale Bokashi composting units in schools and food banks in the area. There’s a lot of trial and error behind how Michael and MJ do it and it’s interesting to hear their story. Everything we’re doing with Bokashi is a sort of pioneer thing, a lot of product development, and the more we can compare notes and share ideas the better it’s going to be.

Anyhow it’s well worth listening to their story. If you’re curious about the nuts and bolts of how they build their bins check their website. Basically they’re using shipping pallets, insulation foam and plastic to build modular, insulated bins. Food waste, wood chips and Bokashi bran in; three months later soil out. Really cool concept, and I think somewhere here is the start of what we’re going to be doing all over in a few years time.

Got your iPod handy? Got your dog handy? Take a nice walk in the autumn leaves and enjoy!

Here’s the link:–-kitchen-composting-bokashi-101/

And here’s the link to Kate’s blog, The Manic Gardener. Worth reading!!

Autumn leaves make great pumpkins!

Now is the time!

Grab a few sacks on the next fine day and fill them with autumn leaves, the nice dry fluffy ones. Even better, keep an eye on what your neighbours are doing, maybe they’ll do all the work filling sacks and you can just sweetly ask for them when they’re ready.

Sacks of leaves make great soil, especially in combination with Bokashi. Without Bokashi you’ll get a sack full of lovely leaf compost in two or three years. If you toss in a few Bokashi buckets in each sack during the winter you’ll most likely find the contents will turn to soil during the coming spring and summer.

There’s two tricks (three, if you count getting your neighbors to do all  the work :-)).

Winter: line up your sacks nice and close to the kitchen door. That way you won’t have to go far to empty your Bokashi buckets. As long as it’s reasonably dry in the sacks (and we’re talking plastic sacks here) you won’t have any smell at all. No rats or mice either as they’ll find it too acidic. But the trick is not having to wade through snow and rain to get to them, chances are I’m not the only lazy one round here. Keep the bags sealed with a tie or clip. If it’s feeling a bit damp throw in a newspaper or two to take up the condensation.

Spring: move the sacks to a nice sunny spot, the warmer the better. OK, I’m talking northern European climates here where it never gets TOO hot! If you live somewhere with real heat you’d probably want to find a place that’s just warm. The microbes from the Bokashi will spring into action and team up with the microbes that came in with the autumn leaves — together they’ll trigger the soil-making process.

If you’re looking for some good mulch early on in the season you should find one of these bags just perfect. The food waste will be pretty much gone, absorbed up into the leaf mulch. Give it a couple of months longer and you’ll have a nice bag of potting mix. The leaves don’t have a lot of nutrition but the Bokashi  certainly does, how strong it is depends on the mix you used.

Chances are some worms will have made their way in, if not you can always plant in a few. Pop a few air vents for the guys. Some small slits in the bottom of the sack would let worms in and out and also let the bag drain if needed.

I’ve spoken to a few people who do this in their greenhouse and think it works really well. Which is quite smart because it’s usually nice and warm in there and cuts down on handling if you’re planning to use the soil in the greenhouse come spring. One tip is to position the sacks on your planting beds and let them drain in the spots you most want to fertilize.

Another cool idea is to plant directly in the sacks come spring. Ideal if you want to grow pumpkins or something that wants rich, warm soil. Lay out the sacks in the growing spot, make slits where you want to plant and poke in a bit of plain soil. Pop in the pumpkin. That’s it! Even if the food waste is still evident in the bag the plants will be able to take up the nutrients directly — that’s the whole point of Bokashi.

And it’s the perfect way to grow stuff on a weedy spot. The bags will act like a quarantine for the growing pumpkin plants (or whatever!) — keeping nutrients in, weeds out, and on top of it kill off the weeds under the bag. And when the pumpkins are harvested it’s just to slice up the bag and mulch down the lot.

Could be a fun idea for schools and pre-schools? It’s kind of fun to see how the food waste goes in one end and pumpkins come out the other. A project that could start and finish at Halloween.

Way more fun than throwing the stuff in the bin!